It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When it comes to movie remakes, it can also be the source of bad movies that could have been much better. A good case in point is “The Truth About Charlie.”
Based on 1963’s “Charade,” “The Truth About Charlie” presents a story that begins with newlywed Regina Lambert’s return home after a holiday. During the trip she decides to ask her husband, Charlie, for a divorce. We never really know why, because she finds her Paris flat ransacked and all her furniture and clothes taken.
During her holiday, she runs into a young man she learns to call Peter Joshua, but later in the movie becomes Dile and then Lewis Bartholomew. Confused? Just wait. Charlie was caught up in some covert operation in the Balkans involving $6 million worth of diamonds and a group of four unsavory operators.
There are ties to the CIA, and there is a person who claims to be looking for the money for the government. There are car crashes, foot chases and the death of some major characters. Revelation comes in the end, but is it truly satisfying? Much of the mystery is easily discernable if one remains awake and aware.
What makes the film hard to watch is that it is shot in the “new wave” style of Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. There is even a cameo by Anna Karina, who starred in many of Godard’s films. The style worked for these two masters. There was an intimacy to their films that is lacking here.
The camera movements on the streets of Paris only make the film hard to endure. One filmgoer remarked on exiting the showing that she was glad it was over because the film had given her a headache.
“The Truth About Charlie” also suffers from poor casting. Mark Wahlberg takes the Cary Grant role of Joshua Peters. Wahlberg is a moderately talented actor, but does not have the chops to be Peters. He lacks the quality that made Cary Grant Cary Grant. There is no roguish charm and no real sparkle in his eyes. Wahlberg does not look like the kind of man who could steal a woman’s diamonds and then bring her back some more, to quote Greg Allman.
Thandie Newton does remind one of Audrey Hepburn, but her mindlessness in this piece acts to make the story harder to watch. Newton is easy on the eyes, but she does not have the acting power to pull this role off.
Director Jonathan Demme has done solid work in the past. He’s won an Academy Award, but this is not his best work. It is a mid-level movie done in a fashion that does not look well when compared to Demme’s “Silence of the Lambs,” “Philadelphia” or even “Melvin and Howard.”
There may be no real original ideas anymore, and some films can be remade. “Charade” is a worthy subject. Roger Ebert made this clear in his review of this film. But, if one is going to remake a film, at least try and live up to the source material. In the end, Demme swings for the seats, but all we get is a single.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Burgaw Baptist Church in Burgaw, N.C.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence and sexual content/nudity
Director: Jonathan Demme
Writers: Jonathan Demme, Steve Schmidt, Peter Stone and Jessica Bendinger
Cast: Regina Lambert: Thandie Newton; Joshua Peters: Mark Wahlberg; Mr. Bartholomew: Tim Robbins; Il-Sang Lee: Joong-HoonPark; Lola Jansco: Lisa Gay Hamilton; Emil Zarapec: Ted Levine
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.